Phase-transition materials provide exciting opportunities for controlling optical properties of photonic devices dynamically. Here, we systematically investigate the infrared emission from a thin film of vanadium dioxide (VO2). We experimentally demonstrate that such thin films are promising candidates to tune and control the thermal radiation of an underlying hot body with different emissivity features. In particular, we studied two different heat sources with completely different emissivity features, i.e. a black body-like and a mirror-like heated body. The infrared emission characteristics were investigated in the 3.5–5.1 μm spectral range using the infrared thermography technique which included heating the sample, and then cooling back. Experimental results were theoretically analyzed by modelling the VO2 film as a metamaterial for a temperature range close to its critical temperature. Our systematic study reveals that VO2 thin films with just one layer 80 nm thick has the potential to develop completely different dynamic tuning of infrared radiation, enabling both black-body emission suppression and as well as mirror emissivity boosting, in the same single layer device. Understanding the dynamics and effects of thermal tuning on infrared emission will benefit wide range of infrared technologies including thermal emitters, sensors, active IR filters and detectors.
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